Throughout the last few years, we have been doing a lot of very selective clearing of certain plant species, like BLACKBERRIES, to prevent them from completely taking over. With most of the major clearing out of the way, this season my primary focus will be to plant more fruit trees, nut trees, and other perennial edibles. After all, it is a food forest! I’m also really focusing on bringing in perennial flowers and shrubs to help attract pollinators–and repel pests using integrated pest management (IPM is a huge subject and one I will be talking about a lot as we go.) Remember though, the more diversified a garden is, the less likely you will run into trouble!
This blog will focus on my top 10 BC-native plants for attracting hummingbirdsbecause hummingbirds are amazing pollinators and native plants are vital to our (and their) ecosystem.
1. Western Trumpet(Orange Honeysuckle)
Botanical Name: Lonicera ciliosa
Bloom Time: May – July
The Western Trumpet has gorgeous red and orange colouring which hummingbirds are naturally attracted to. In fact, with a poor sense of smell, hummingbirds use colour as a signal for nectar. Once nectar has been found, hummingbirds slide their long and slender beaks perfectly into the trumpet-like honeysuckle flowers. Since the Western Trumpet plant is native to the pacific northwest forest, we were lucky enough to find quite a few vines of it naturally running through our neck of the woods.
2. Sitka Columbine (Red Columbine)
Botanical Name: Aquilegia formosa
Common Name: Family: Ranunculaceae
Bloom Time: May – August
The Sitka Columbine flower is extremely attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies with its bright red colour and lovely nectar. I sowed many Red Columbine seeds last spring, so I’m expecting to see them emerge this spring. Can’t wait!
3. Tiger Lily
Botanical Name: Lilium columbianum
Bloom Time: June – September
This yellow, orange and red spotted flower is a fabulous choice for hummingbirds and butterflies too. Like many of the flowers on this list, the Tiger Lily faces downwards. When hummingbirds put their long beaks up inside these downward-facing flowers to collect the nectar, pollen often falls out on the hummers neck, back, chin and throat, making them excellent pollinators!
4. Pacific Bleeding Heart
Botanical Name: Dicentra formosa
Bloom Time: March – July
Bleeding Hearts have always been a favourite of mine, so easily recognizable to even a small child. This plant is wonderful for not only hummingbirds, bees and butterflies, but they also have a beneficial relationship with ants. That’s right: ants take the seeds and part of the flower for food and then drop the seeds, essentially planting them, as they crawl through the forest. Our part of the woods has an extensive Bleeding Hearts population, which pops in the early spring and then keeps on giving.
5. Red-flowering Currant
Botanical Name: Ribes sanguineum
Bloom Time: March – April
Both hummingbirds and bumblebees flock to the flowers of the Red-flowering Currant. The beautiful red is extremely attractive to the Rufous and Ana hummingbirds as it has lots of nectar. The Red-Flowering Currant is also loved by many birds and other wildlife. As a bonus, it is
deer resistant and a wonderful erosion control. I’ll be adding a lot of this plant to help protect our hillside with extra stabilization.
Botanical Name: Rubus spectabilis
Bloom Time: March – June
Filled with very sweet nectar and dressed in a beautiful bright reddish pink, the Salmonberry beckons the hummingbird over to have a taste. Interestingly, the flowers seem to open at the same time that the Rufous Hummingbird migrates into BC.
7. Red Huckleberry
Botanical Name: Vaccinium parvifolium
Bloom Time: April – June
Not only is the Red Huckleberry a favourite of my children, it is a favourite of the hummingbirds and many other wildlife. When harvesting for yourself, please remember the golden rule of never taking too many from one spot. If you always leave an abundance, you will never over harvest.
8. Pacific Rhododendron
Botanical Name: Rhododendron macrophyllum
Bloom Time: April – July
To be honest, I was OVER Rhodos…did I dare just say that? I did. My parents had many Rhododendrons when I was a child and I found them a tad bit boring. I didn’t regain my appreciation for them until the last couple of years. Now, I even “rescue” them from other gardeners that no longer want them. In BC, we have our very own variety of the Rhododendron, the Pacific Rhododendron, in a lovely shade of pink. Rhododendrons have some wonderful attributes and, as evergreens, they make excellent screens. I am trying to collect one of these trees in every colour to make a beautiful screen fence.
9. Black Twinberry Honeysuckle
Botanical Name: Lonicera involucrata
Bloom Time: March – August
When I think of Honeysuckle, I think of hummingbirds. Probably because it’s an excellent source of nectar for hummingbirds. The berries on this plant are also eaten by many small animals, birds and even bears.
Honeysuckle has quite a few uses, from erosion control to bank stabilization. It’s also a host for lepidopteran larvae (butterflies!).
10. Straggly Gooseberry
Botanical Name: Ribes divaricatum
Bloom Time: April – May
Honestly, this flower isn’t that showy, but it is a native! I had trouble finding 10 plants that were both native and great for hummingbirds. Luckily this plant checks both boxes. The Straggly Gooseberry also has great juicy berries–but you have to act fast before the birds get them all.
Rufous Humingbird taken by Damon Calderwood – Thank you Mr. C!
Damon’s newest book Birding for kids will be available May 2020!
Becky is a Clinical Hypnotherapist, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Landscape & Production Horticulturist, Arborist and budding Herbalist, who recognizes and specializes in the link between healthy soil, the gut and the brain. She also loves being the mom to her two wild and crazy kids Brooke & Connor whom keep her and her ever loving, creative husband Jay on their toes.
Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
As an enthusiast and expert in horticulture, I would like to share my knowledge and experience on the topic of creating a food forest and attracting hummingbirds with native plants. Over the years, I have dedicated myself to selectively clearing certain plant species, such as blackberries, to prevent them from overpowering the ecosystem. With the major clearing done, my focus this season is on planting more fruit trees, nut trees, and other perennial edibles to create a diverse and vibrant food forest.
One crucial aspect of our food forest is attracting pollinators, and that's where hummingbirds come in. Hummingbirds are amazing pollinators, and native plants play a vital role in supporting their ecosystem. In this blog, I will introduce my top 10 BC-native plants that are particularly attractive to hummingbirds.
Western Trumpet (Orange Honeysuckle): The Western Trumpet, also known as Orange Honeysuckle, is a stunning plant with red and orange coloring that naturally attracts hummingbirds. With their poor sense of smell, hummingbirds rely on color signals to find nectar. The trumpet-like honeysuckle flowers provide the perfect feeding spot for hummingbirds, with their long and slender beaks fitting snugly inside. Luckily, this plant is native to the pacific northwest forest, making it readily available in our area.
Sitka Columbine (Red Columbine): The Sitka Columbine is a beautiful flower that attracts both hummingbirds and butterflies with its bright red color and sweet nectar. I planted Red Columbine seeds last spring and eagerly anticipate their emergence this season.
Tiger Lily: The Tiger Lily is another fantastic choice for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies. Its yellow, orange, and red spotted flowers face downwards, inviting hummingbirds to insert their beaks and collect nectar. As they feed, pollen often falls on the hummingbirds' neck, back, chin, and throat, making them excellent pollinators.
Pacific Bleeding Heart: The Pacific Bleeding Heart is a beloved plant, recognizable even to a small child. Not only does it attract hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, but it also has a unique relationship with ants. Ants take the seeds and parts of the flower for food, inadvertently planting the seeds as they move through the forest. In our woods, we have an extensive population of Bleeding Hearts that bring joy in the early spring and beyond.
Red-flowering Currant: The Red-flowering Currant is a favorite of both hummingbirds and bumblebees. Its vibrant red flowers provide plenty of nectar and are particularly attractive to Rufous and Anna hummingbirds. Additionally, this plant is loved by other birds and wildlife, making it a valuable addition to any garden. It also serves as deer-resistant and helps control erosion.
Salmonberry: The Salmonberry is a delightful plant that beckons hummingbirds with its sweet nectar and bright reddish-pink flowers. Interestingly, the flowers bloom around the same time that Rufous Hummingbirds migrate into BC, creating a perfect timing for their interaction.
Red Huckleberry: The Red Huckleberry is not only a favorite of hummingbirds but also a popular choice for many other wildlife. When harvesting, it's essential to remember not to take too many from one spot, ensuring an abundance remains for both humans and animals.
Pacific Rhododendron: Although I once found Rhododendrons a bit boring, I have come to appreciate their beauty in recent years. The Pacific Rhododendron, with its lovely pink shade, is a native variety found in BC. Aside from their visual appeal, Rhododendrons serve as evergreen screens, providing privacy and beauty to any garden.
Black Twinberry Honeysuckle: Honeysuckles are well-known for their attraction to hummingbirds due to their abundant nectar. The Black Twinberry Honeysuckle is no exception and provides a valuable food source for both hummingbirds and various animals. It also serves multiple purposes, from erosion control to hosting lepidopteran larvae, also known as butterflies.
Straggly Gooseberry: While the Straggly Gooseberry may not be the most showy flower, it is a native plant that is great for attracting hummingbirds. Additionally, it produces juicy berries that are highly sought after by birds. It's important to act quickly if you want to enjoy these berries before the birds get to them.
By incorporating these native plants into your garden, you can create a haven for hummingbirds and contribute to the health of our ecosystem. Remember, attracting pollinators like hummingbirds is not only beneficial for them but also essential for the overall well-being of our environment. So let's embrace the beauty of nature and create a thriving food forest that supports these incredible creatures.